Just the other day, my husband and I were out running errands when he saw a side of me that he isn’t used to seeing. For the most part in our relationship, I am more passive and let him handle all of the “tough” situations. Well, on this day we were picking up something that I needed, that was very important. We had been informed that it was ready for pick-up, yet it was not. At this point, I didn’t get upset, I calmly asked to speak to the manager of the establishment so that we could get it sorted out (which we did with a very little problem). Once we were back in the car my hubby was chuckling a bit…admitting that he liked that I had been “bossy” to get what I needed. This conversation prompted a discussion about being assertive rather than bossy or aggressive.
What does it mean to be assertive?
Being assertive is a core communication skill that requires you to effectively state what you need or want in a situation, without disrespecting others. Being assertive can help you reduce stress, boost your self-esteem, and earn others’ respect. I like the table shown below, as it lays out the differences between the three communication styles: passive, assertive, and aggressive.
|Thinking your needs don’t matter at all||Recognizing that your needs matter as much as anyone else’s||Thinking that only your needs matter|
|Not talking, not being heard||Talking and listening||Talking over people|
|Trying to keep the peace||Making sure things are fair – for you and others||Looking out for yourself|
|Allowing yourself to be bullied||Standing up for yourself||Bullying others|
|Not saying what you think, or not saying anything||Express your point clearly and confidently||This can lead to shouting, aggression, or violence|
|Damages relationships – other people respect you less||Enhances relationships – other people know where they stand||Damages relationships – other people don’t like aggression|
|Damages your self-esteem||Builds your self-esteem||Damages others self-esteem|
If you struggle to be assertive within your relationship or with others, check out these five tips to become more assertive.
Five tips to develop more assertiveness:
- Use a calm and even tone and make eye contact. It is important to speak to someone in the way you wish to be spoken to. Therefore, lower your tone and use clear and appropriate language. Eye contact is a powerful tool that communicates confidence and respect for self and others. Remain relaxed and use open body language.
- Use “I statements.” When you use “I statements” like “I need to change our plans” your needs and/or wants are conveyed directly. Also, this eliminates the other person’s need to defend themselves as you are just expressing a point.
- Describe your feelings. As much as possible and appropriately express clearly what you are feeling due to the current situation. This helps to show the importance of what you are expressing and how it is affecting your life now.
- Stick to your guns. You may have to repeat what you need or want. This is normal. Let the other person know that you hear them and understand their position, then restate your point.
- Learn to say no. Know your limits. Know that it is more than okay to say no to protect yourself from being taken advantage of. Also, know when to walk away from a situation or ask to speak to a manager in a customer service setting. Again, using the same tips, express your point.
Thinking back to the opening scenario, I was just being assertive to express my needs, not “bossy” at all! If you find that you have difficulty with communication styles, contact us so we can help you express your wants and needs more healthily through individual therapy or couples therapy.